Gov. Mark Gordon has appointed Uinta County GOP Committeeman Karl Allred interim secretary of state.
Allred, who’s never before served in elected office or worked in state government, will be the second-highest-ranking government official in Wyoming until January, when he’ll pass the torch to the newly elected secretary of state. He is filling a vacancy left by Ed Buchanan, who resigned on Sept. 17 to take the bench in Wyoming’s Eighth Judicial District.
“This is an interim job,” Allred told WyoFile. “It’s not a job that I’m out there to make waves with.”
The gas plant foreman and Evanston resident has two main objectives for his time in office, he said: getting through the general election with adherence to rules and statutes, and facilitating a smooth transition to the next secretary of state. That person is very likely to be Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper), who, having secured the Republican nomination in August, faces no challenger on the ballot in the general election.
Allred said he expects to be sworn in on Monday.
In August, Allred lost the Republican primary for House District 19 by 326 votes. He also lost previous races for the state House in 2020, 2018 and 2010, as well as a run for state Senate in 2014.
Aside from his campaign experience, Allred’s time in Wyoming’s public eye has mostly resulted from legal challenges. In 2016, for example, Allred and then Rep. Gerald Gay (R-Casper) unsuccessfully sued then Gov. Matt Mead and legislative leaders over the Capitol building renovation.
In 2018, when the Wyoming GOP hosted its convention in Laramie, Allred was one of several party members who defied a University of Wyoming policy by carrying a gun on campus. While another man from Uinta County, Lyle Williams, was cited by UWPD, Allred was not.
Over the years he’s also made regular appearances before legislative committees, sometimes armed when meetings were held in non-governmental buildings. The State Building Commission Rules prohibit “dangerous weapons” from being brought into government offices, which means Allred will not be able to carry in his new office in the Capitol building.
“That’s a policy that I think is wrong, but it is a policy,” Allred said, adding that he would abide by it.
The governor selected Allred from a group of three nominees put forth by the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee, as was required by state statute. Marti Halverson, a former lawmaker, and Bryan Miller, chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party, were the other two nominees.
Allred’s declared intent to preserve the status quo contrasted with Halverson, who criticized the Election Division of the secretary of state’s office in her application and promised to make several changes ahead of the general election.
By contrast, Allred said he will “rely greatly on the experience and the qualified people we have there,” including Elections Division Director Kai Schon and Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler.
Plans aside, Allred’s authority to substantively change elections will likely be limited — as will be true for the incoming secretary in January. The power to make new laws or change existing election laws, for example, lies within the Legislature, per Article 3, section 1 of the Wyoming Constitution. And while the state’s election code authorizes the secretary of state to make written directives to county clerks, “it’s strictly tied really to emergencies,” Schon said.
“The secretary of state shall have the authority to issue directives to county election officers necessary to ensure the proper conduct of elections, including voter registration and elector participation when there is a declared natural disaster or other impending or declared emergency which interferes with an election,” according to Title 22, Chapter two, section 121 of the Wyoming Election Code.
Buchanan was given that authority during the COVID-19 pandemic when a national emergency was declared.
The secretary is also authorized to adopt rules and regulations when necessary to comply with either the Help America Vote Act of 2002 or the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009.
The Wyoming Republican Party has come out against ballot drop boxes and Gray has promised to abolish them.
However, “there is nothing in [the election code] that would allow a directive specific to drop boxes,” Schon said.
In addition to his duties as the state’s chief election officer, Allred will also serve on various panels and commissions, including the State Loan and Investment Board, which manages revenue generated from state lands and administers grant and loan programs to cities, towns and counties. The SLIB is set to meet in December.
The Wyoming Republican Party congratulated Allred on its website Thursday night. But skepticism is already bubbling about Allred’s impartiality in his new role overseeing the state’s elections.
During the GOP’s state central committee meeting on Sept. 17 in Riverton, Allred called on his party to financially back Republican Jim McCollum in his race for House District 16 against Rep. Mike Yin (D-Jackson). The state party can only afford to support so many candidates due to financial problems, so they’re only backing Republicans in what they consider “winnable” races.
“If any of you have met him or dealt with him in any committee meetings, the guy is a flippin’ idiot,” Allred said of Yin. “And we need to get rid of him.”
Yin tweeted his concerns Thursday night.
“Karl Allred is now going to be our unelected Secretary of State and will be in charge of my election results,” Yin said.
“None of the choices given to the Governor by the Wyoming Republican Party were reasonable options when there were former county clerks that applied for the appointment,” Yin said in an email. “Two out of five our top five current statewide positions have now been chosen by partisans and not the public.”
The other official Yin referred to is Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, whom Gordon appointed in January following the resignation of Jillian Balow.
The Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee is currently drafting a bill to make changes to how the state fills certain vacancies.